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Bane of my existence. Gross. Slimy. Indestructible. Insatiable. Strawberry destroyers.

Ever since we bought the property we currently live on (two years and three summers ago), slugs have been my constant enemy.

Slugs are a type of gastropod (taxonomic rank =class) and basically look like snails that have lost their house. I have two primary types of slugs that are extremely prolific on my property. And I mean extremely prolific. As in if its rained recently you can’t walk through the grass without stepping on at least one. Yeah, gross. 😝 I have a fairly large yellowish slug I’m pretty sure is the Western Dusky Slug, Arion subfuscus, (although it could be something else in the same genus), and a small grey colored slug that I’m pretty sure is a Smooth Land Slug (Deroceras species).

Western Dusky Slug (Arion subfuscus)?

Normally, my reaction to their presence would be more along the lines of, ‘Oh look at their crazy eyestalks. I bet they provide lots of food for my frogs. However. They are constantly destroying my strawberry harvest. So. Instead, my reaction is more along the lines of, ‘Death to all slugs! This is war!!’. * sigh *

My saga begins with my love of berries (which you may have read about in my berry post). This includes the wonderfully sweet, homegrown, strawberry. So of course one of the first things I planted when we purchased this place was a strawberry patch – since I actually had the space to do so. That’s when all the trouble started. Apparently I was not the only one excited to have a new strawberry patch on the property. The slugs were very excited too. Every day during peak strawberry season I’d go check the patch for ripe berries. And I’d find lots of ripe, and almost ripe, berries – FULL OF HOLES. 😭 The slugs had a feast that first summer and as you might imagine, I was incredibly disappointed. So, I prepared for war the following summer.

Smooth Land Slug (Deroceras sp.)?

Now, I have battled slugs in the garden before. They often like to eat my lettuce and celery, so this is not a new concept for me. In the past I’ve managed slug populations in the garden just fine with a combination of physically removing them by hand in the evenings (when they are most active), or from under boards and citrus rinds, and with beer traps (little bowls of beer set at ground level to attract and drown the slimy assholes). That was before my strawberry patch.

Summer season number two, I tried everything I could think of to prepare for their onslaught:

  • Beer traps. Lots and lots of beer traps (definitely would have been cheaper to just buy strawberries).
  • Coffee grounds.
  • Egg shells.
  • Thick layers of diatomaceous earth. I though for sure this would work, but they just cruised through it.
  • Copper mesh around the garden box.
  • Straight up hand removal. They quickly overwhelmed me with sheer abundance. It just wasn’t practical to pick hundreds of slugs out of my beds every evening. And it is not very enjoyable.

Nothing worked. Another season’s crop completely lost.

Smooth Land Slug (Deroceras sp.)?

This season, almost at my wits end, I:

  • Completely ripped out all my plants, replanted and expanded into a second garden box, and left lots of space between plants (less hiding space)
  • Removed as much of the grass and weeds from near the boxes as I could
  • Stopped watering my plants most days unless I thought they would wouldn’t make it
  • Started bricking in the beds
  • Put 2” copper tape (affiliate link) all around the boxes (supposedly copper is slug kryptonite, but the copper mesh last year had no noticeable impact)
My strawberry patch

Finally, finally, I thought I got them under control! I started to actually find whole berries I could pick- not just the swiss cheese berry remains. Then it rained. I guess we had been going through a bit of a drought in southern Michigan this season… And they’re back. Not as many in the strawberry boxes as before, but I found some. So much for my efforts to barricade and make the garden inhospitable.

I broke down and bought a canister of slug poison (affiliate link). I hate using chemicals in the garden, but what’s the point of growing strawberries if you can’t eat them? I haven’t seen a single slug in my boxes since I started using the poison regularly. Supposedly its safe for anything not a slug… I only use it in the actual strawberry beds though to minimize other things coming in contact with it. I still see other insects and arthropods hanging out in the strawberries – seemingly in good health… Maybe it won’t have dire cascading ecological effects on my property? I can hope. All because I wanted strawberries…

Strawberry in the garden

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Written by an entomologist for the enjoyment of all... The goal is to post 1 new story every week or so. Stay tuned!